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SALT LAKE CITY — A month ago, Utah gymnastics coaches gave their team the assignment to begin "sticking" their landings.
Freshman Victoria Shanley tried on her vault. "I think it took her four, five or six to get one done, and she looked at me, and she said, 'That's the first vault I've ever stuck in my life,'" said coach Greg Marsden.
"So when she stuck that vault the other night (Friday in the meet against Stanford), I said, 'What's that, about the third or fourth vault you've ever stuck in your life?'
"She said, 'Fifth.'"
Yes, Shanley is counting.
That stick — in the first collegiate routine of Shanley's career — resulted in a 9.875 score that tied her with fellow freshman Corrie Lothrop and Stanford's Alyssa Brown for the best vault score of the meet, won by Stanford. It ranks her 11th in the NCAA this week.
"I was a little surprised myself," Shanley said. "I rarely stick vaults in the first place, so it's still kind of a shock to me right now that I actually stuck a vault in a competition.
"Stuck five in my life," she added, "and they've all happened in this gym (well, one in the Huntsman Center).
"Before, I'd just (say), 'Stay off my face.' But now, it's all about the stick."
Shanley, of Colorado Springs, Colo., was good enough to place in all-around and in every event in the 2008 Junior Olympics and was eighth on bars at the 2009 JO's.
But in her favorite event, vault, she just liked to go big. Now, she's got to focus. "I think normally I just want to bust a really high vault, but now I need to control it more and save a few tenths for the team," she said.
Utah's next meet is Friday with unranked Arizona State in the Huntsman Center at 7 p.m.
Shanley is just getting back after a December bout with mononucleosis.
"I'm getting back into all of my events now and learning more skills, so I think within this next week I'll have some pretty set routines so I can contribute," she said.
She still has work to do. "I was sloppy when I was in club, but they're tightening me up now, and I'm learning how to do prettier gymnastics."
MACKIE SPECTACKIE: Another gymnast who had a breakthrough vs. Stanford was senior Gael Mackie. "Gael was really spectacular on bars and floor and did a very nice job on beam in a tough situation, following somebody who had a fall," said Marsden.
The floor was the biggest thing for her. Her final tumbling pass wasn't completely ready, but with Utah down two senior gymnasts (Kyndal Robarts, Jacq Johnson) due to recent injuries, Mackie was the emergency replacement. Marsden was only going to use her if any of the first five competitors messed up.
But Mackie told him she wanted to try anyway.
Even with a weak last tumbling pass, she scored 9.875, second-highest of 12 competitors on floor and a score that has her tied for fifth in the national rankings.
The routine — last of the night – was easily the crowd's favorite. "It made it fun. It's fun for me, and I think it's fun for them, too. It's cool when it can be entertaining," she said.
Mackie hasn't competed floor since her sophomore year due to two severe ankle injuries. "It's good to be back because I love floor so," she said Monday. "I love floor, and I love my routine, and so I told (Marsden) I wanted to go up just for fun, and it ended up being pretty good, I guess."
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